Review Summary: All flash, and even more substance
EDIT (2/20/09): My first review, which I originally wrote in 2007 actually. Looking back I'd definitely rewrite this thing completely and may not have posted it, so try not to be too
harsh on it.
Doing something unique is an incredibly challenging thing to do in music these days especially when you're attempting to break into such flooded, oversaturated genres of music like metalcore and death metal. But Sacramento-based technical death metal band, With Passion, seem to do it with ease. Very few bands express a level of technicality that With Passion does, not even, dare I say it, the likes of other technical juggernauts such as Necrophagist, Between the Buried and Me, or Athiest.
But right from the start, What We See When We Shut Our Eyes explodes with its sweeping leads and dual guitars. Just upon hearing the first couple seconds of the opening track, "Pale Horse's Ride", you know you're in for something very special. The good thing is, the album never lets up. From start to finish it's nothing but a guitar player's wet dream. That's not to say the album never slows down a bit though. Even during the album's several acoustic and jazz influenced interludes, the guitar work is still remarkable. And this isn't the emotionless shred that you'd find on a Slayer album. The guitar work is not only lightning fast, but also conveys some type of emotion or feeling. "A Road For the Worthy" in particular even sports several guitar leads that aren't unlike neo-classical acts like Cacophony. And that's a really great thing because all of the melodic guitar lines provide a really good contrast with a lot of the brutality that ensues in between the album's sweep-picking assaults.
Even though this album seems directed more towards guitar geeks, that's not to say its rhythm section is not equally as impressive. With Passion's drummer Greg Donnelly shows some tremendous chops here as well and has greatly improved since his work in the band Conducting From the Grave. All of his toms and cymbals have a very clean sound, again providing some contrast to the more brutal segments of the album. And bassist Mike Nordeen can also be heard throughout the album and has several standout basslines most notably the bass harmony found in the song "Tales of Sirens". Vocals on the other hand can be quite forgettable at times. Fidel Campos has a unique scream that sounds very hardcore influenced and can definitely be picked out among other death metal acts, but it seems that a lot of the melodies are found more in the guitar work rather than vocals.
With Passion's What We See When We Shut Our Eyes is an epic blend of technicality, brutality, euphoria, and chaos. You will more than likely need a forklift to pry your jaw off the ground after giving this album a listen. It's very distinct from anything else you hear in this genre. If you have a deep enough appreciation for music to enjoy more technical works such as this but prefer to do with out all of the progressiveness and lack of focus in other bands like Between the Buried and Me, this is right up your alley. But a word of warning - for fans of With Passion's In the Midst of Bloodied Soil this is a pretty significant change. Actually this isn't even the same group of people who wrote that album, with the exception of two members. This is more or less their current project, Conducting From the Grave, under the name With Passion. But regardless of who wrote the album, it is definitely one of the best things to happen to this genre of music in a long time.
"Pale Horse's Ride"
"Through the Smoke Lies a Path"
"Tales of Sirens"
"Vengeance in Departure"